Don’t Get it Right, Get it Written! – NOVEL CHAPTERS

Welcome back to, Don’t Get it Right, Get it Written! By Stuart White

Stuart White

Stuart White

 More on Stuart HERE

Stuart continues his tips on how to….WRITE CHAPTERS IN A NOVEL



[Click HERE to See earlier post on example character, “Gretchen Sunflower”]

So you’re all dossiered up. You know you who heroine/hero, singular or plural is/are. You know roughly the story arc which is how Molly Perkins goes from being a poor little girl in the projects of Philadelphia, to Gretchen Sunflower on the palm-lined streets of Beverly Hills and the Oscar-night red carpets. Well you now you know the start – but do you know the end.

 I always, always make sure I know what the ending is before I start. It seems somehow important for the development of the story AND it’s almost like a tiny distant beacon towards which you are heading and its feeble light is saying, ‘Don’t give up. I’m here. You can reach the end.’). So ask yourself this question before you start: “What’s the ending. What REALLY happens to Molly/Gretchen?” More on that later.




 Now you must plot the story. So do. Most novels are about 80,000 words. Sometimes less sometimes more, but that’s a reasonable average to head for. So how many chapters? How about twenty? Twenty into 80,000 goes, er…let’s see, right, so that’s four thousand words a chapter.

 So start to write out 20 chapter headings. And here’s a quick professional tip while I still remember it – when you come to write the first chapter, why not start near the end of the story and flash back, rather than just take the viewer on a chronological trip from Point A to Point Z – the projects to Tinseltown. Instead give us a taste of what she ends up with.


                     THE CHAPTERS


For example: Chapter One: A semi-drunken Gretchen late Thirties, lounges on her sofa with her handsome lover (add name). Gretchen is bemoaning the fact that although she has everything materially, she has lost her honor and her morality. She gained the whole world and lost her soul. Then FLASHBACK – as they would say in screenplay – to what-was-then-Molly playing by the fire hydrant on a  hot and steamy Philly night.

 Geddit? You’ve shown the reader where she’s ended up, now you are going to show them why and how she got there, and why she became disillusioned. That’s Chapter One. Your Hollywood scene can be five/six pages…then go back to the Philly Streets.


The idea is to hook your reader into the story. This glamorous, famous, filthily rich star who has it all. But somehow – hasn’t. And…look, she was this poor little kid in a tattered dress. How did she get from THERE – the projects – to HERE, Beverly Hills? And why is that bright-eyed kid, so lovely and innocent, now hard, cynical and LOST. Hopefully first an agent, then a publisher and then millions of readers, will want to know. You’re taking them on a journey remember, you’re telling them a story. Never underestimate that it’s a read. In newspapers they used to call meaty news or feature stories “a good read.” Books are a good read. It’s why people by them. To be taken out of themselves into another world by a good STORY. Suck them in as soon as possible.


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I'm a stay-at-home mom writer and blogger. Writing my novel!

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